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Anesthesia Preoperative Evaluation Syllabus

Beverly J. Newhouse, M.D.

Department of Anesthesiology
University of California, San Diego


Purpose of visit 3

Goals during visit 4

History.. 5

Physical exam. 8

Airway evaluation 9

Labs and testing.. 12

ECG.. 16

Cardiac risk assessment 17

Perioperative beta-blocker therapy protocol... 20

Other common diseases 21

Types of anesthesia 26

Anesthetic risks... 29

Invasive monitors 32

Patient medications 34

Regional anesthesia and anticoagulation... 39

Premedication on day of surgery. 42

Post-operative pain control and prophylaxis for PONV 44

Fasting instructions (and other instructions) to patients.. 46

References.. 47


Studies have shown that preoperative anesthesia evaluation has benefits for the patient,
the anesthesiologist, the surgeons, and the hospital.1

1. For the patient:

- reduce anxiety by offering personalized care/comfort
- data has shown that preoperative evaluation by an anesthesiologist decreases
the incidence of anxiety more effectively than pharmacologic anxiolysis2,3
- here is where they can tell you about the TV show they saw on awareness
under anesthesia and you can reassure them
- answer questions
- education regarding different types of anesthesia, options for post-op
- discuss medications and which ones they should continue/discontinue
- data indicates that preoperative optimization of care can reduce post-op

2. For the anesthesiologist:

- learn of patients medical conditions which might influence anesthetic
- devise an anesthetic plan prior to day of surgery
- allow time to discuss medical conditions with consultants and/or order further

3. For the surgeons and hospital:

- decrease the cost of perioperative care
- improve the efficiency on day of surgery
- decrease the number of cancellations and delays for surgery

Decrease in surgical cancellations for patients evaluated

in the anesthesia preoperative evaluation clinic
Decrease in Surgical
Investigator Cancellations
Fischer5 88%
Pollard et al6 20%
Boothe7 60%
Macarthur et al 5 times lower


Physical exam
Cardiac risk assessment and possible referral for further testing
Discussion of types of anesthesia applicable to surgical procedure
Discussion of risks/benefits/alternatives
Discussion of any invasive monitors likely to be placed on day of surgery
Instructions regarding medications
Discussion of options for post-op analgesia
Fasting and other instructions to patient
Answer questions
Follow-up any labs or further testing after patient visit

After seeing the patient, you should document an anesthetic plan on the pre-op form:

1. Consider the implications of patient co-morbidities -

Implications associated with cardiac disease, DM, HTN, asthma, and
COPD are reviewed in this syllabus.
If you are unfamiliar with the anesthetic implications of a certain
disease or disorder, you should look them up! Miller9 and Barash10 are
the gold standards for anesthesia reference. A great source for
information about uncommon diseases is Benumofs Anesthesia and
Uncommon Diseases.11 Jaffes Anesthesiologists Manual of Surgical
Procedures12 is an excellent reference about the surgical procedure,
types of anesthesia applicable to the procedure, and associated
anesthetic implications. And dont forget that you can always consult
with colleagues.
2. Document all instructions given to patient.
3. Consider the need for premedication and/or prophylaxis for post-op N/V.
4. Consider the need for invasive monitoring.
5. Document the types of anesthesia discussed with the patient and patient
6. Consider the options for post-op analgesia.

We will now elaborate on each of the components of the anesthesia preoperative



As in other fields of medicine, it is important to obtain a thorough medical history from

the patient, including past medical history, medications, allergies, social history, family
history, and review of systems. In addition, history that is especially pertinent to
perioperative care includes exercise tolerance, past experience with anesthesia, family
history of problems with anesthesia, history of difficult intubation.

Use the pre-op anesthesia forms to guide your history, but in general the following points
should be covered:

1. Type of surgical procedure and why (diagnosis)

2. HPI symptoms a/w the surgical diagnosis that may impact anesthetic care
- for example, in a patient undergoing cervical spine surgery, it is important to ask
about range of motion of the neck and any positions that exacerbate pain (helps
determine if an awake fiberoptic intubation may be necessary)
- in a patient having hiatal hernia repair, it is important to ask about symptoms of
GERD and severity (helps determine if RSI may be necessary)
3. PMH other illnesses or medical conditions
- exercise tolerance important in later determining cardiac risk
4. PSH include type of anesthetic and any problems/complications relating to the
anesthetic or surgery, any known history of difficult airway, any eye surgeries
(see note on bubble in eye)*
- specific complications related to anesthesia could include allergic reactions,
prolonged skeletal muscle paralysis, delayed awakening, nausea/vomiting,
hoarseness, sore throat, myalgia, post-spinal headache
4. Complete list of medications, including OTC and herbals
5. Complete list of allergies, including the type of reaction
6. Social history tobacco, alcohol, drug use
7. Family history focus on family history of problems with anesthesia, in particular MH
or pseudocholinesterase deficiency

*Note on Bubble in Eye:

The UCSD pre-op form includes a box to check if the patient has a gas bubble in
the eye. It is very important to ask patients (especially elderly) if they have had any eye
surgeries and if yes, then do they have a BUBBLE IN THE EYE most likely if they
have had a vitrectomy or surgery for retinal detachment.
If so, you must document this and also write in large, legible print the words DO
NOT USE NITROUS OXIDE! Nitrous oxide can expand an ocular gas bubble causing
increased intraocular pressure and possible central retinal artery occlusion, which results
in sudden blindness.13

Note on trauma patients:

It is important to note all injuries and results of diagnostic studies (i.e. head CT,
C-spine films, CXR, FAST, CT abd/pelvis) as these may impact anesthetic management.






The most important parts of the pre-anesthetic physical exam are:

1. Airway (see section on airway evaluation).
2. Cardiovascular listen to the patients heart, document any signs of CHF (edema,
increased JVP, S3 gallop, etc.).
3. Pulmonary observe the patients work of breathing, listen for decreased breath
sounds, wheezing, rales.

*These 3 systems should always be examined during the preoperative visit (and often are
re-examined just before surgery).

Other areas of physical exam that may be important depending on the type of procedure
or the patients medical history include:

Neuro at the very least, any focal deficits should be documented.

Vascular access especially if invasive monitors will be necessary.
Regional site note any sites of infection or distortion of anatomy.


As you will learn from Dr. Benumof, there are 11 criteria for evaluating the patients
airway. The purpose of this evaluation is to predict and prepare for possible difficulty in
managing the airway.

Criteria associated with possible difficult airway14:

1. Large protuberant incisors
2. Strong overbite (buck teeth)
3. Inability to prognath
4. Small inter-incisor distance (< 6cm)
5. Large tongue (Oropharyngeal or Mallampati classification)
6. Narrow or high-arched palate
7. Short thyromental distance (< 6cm)
- including retrognathia or micrognathia
8. Excessive mandibular soft tissue
9. Short neck
10. Thick neck
11. Decreased range of motion of neck

Inform the patient of the rare, but possible risk of dental injury during intubation. Ask
about dentures/removable appliances and tell them they will have to remove them prior to

Always document any loose, chipped, or missing teeth in pre-op note so that the
anesthesiologist does not get blamed!

Mallampati Classification of Airway

Tonsillar Part of uvula, Only tongue, Only tongue

pillars, base of soft palate, soft palate, and and hard palate
uvula, soft hard palate, hard palate visualized
palate, hard and tongue visualized
palate, tongue visualized

A history of a previous surgery performed w/o complications under GA reduces the

probability of a major airway problem, but certainly does not eliminate it.

In addition to the 11 criteria, patients should also be questioned about a history of sleep
apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea suggests periods of intermittent airway obstruction,
which can be associated with difficult mask ventilation and/or difficult intubation.9

If you are concerned that the patient may have a difficult airway, you should discuss the
possibility of an awake fiberoptic intubation.15 Explain why this procedure may be
necessary, emphasizing the importance of safely securing the airway before the patient
stops breathing. Be sure to explain that we will use local anesthetic to topicalize the
airway and likely provide some sedation before attempting to place the bronchoscope.

Aside from obvious indications, it will ultimately be the decision of the anesthesiologist
present on the day of surgery as to whether an awake fiberoptic intubation is necessary,
based on his/her airway evaluation.

There are many congenital syndromes that involve the airway and can lead to difficult
mask ventilation and intubation. Examples include Down syndrome, Pierre Robin,
Klippel-Feil, Treacher Collins, and Turner syndrome.9 If you encounter a patient with
one of these congenital syndromes, you should read about the specific airway
implications and be prepared.

In addition, patients may present with other disorders that affect airway management,
including traumatic, inflammatory, infectious, or neoplastic diseases. The table on the
next page is adopted from Miller9 and lists some examples along with their specific
airway implications.

Selected pathologic states that may influence airway management9

Pathologic State Concerns

Infectious epiglottitis Laryngoscopy may worsen obstruction
Abscess (submandibular, retropharyngeal) Distortion of airway makes mask
ventilation (MV) or intubation difficult
Croup, bronchitis, pneumonia Airway irritability increases risk of
laryngospasm, bronchospasm
Papillomatosis Airway obstruction
Tetanus Trismus makes oral intubation impossible
Traumatic foreign body Airway obstruction
Cervical spine injury Neck manipulation may traumatize cord
Basilar skull fracture Nasal intubation may result in intracranial
tube placement
Maxillary/Mandibular injury Airway obstruction, difficult MV
Laryngeal fracture Partial obstruction may become complete
with blind instrumentation; ETT may be
misplaced outside larynx
Laryngeal edema Irritable airway, narrowed inlet
Soft tissue injury (edema, bleeding) Distortion of airway, obstruction
Neoplastic upper airway tumor (pharynx, Inspiratory obstruction with spontaneous
larynx) ventilation
Lower airway tumor (trachea, bronchi, Lower airway distortion; airway
mediastinum) obstruction may not be relieved by
Radiation therapy Fibrosis may distort airway
Inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis Mandibular hypoplasia, TMJ arthritis,
immobile cervical spine, laryngeal rotation
Ankylosing spondylitis Fusion of cervical spine may make direct
laryngoscopy impossible
Temporomandibular joint syndrome Severe impairment of mouth opening
Scleroderma Tight skin and TMJ involvement make
mouth opening difficult
Angioedema Obstructive swelling makes MV difficult
Sarcoidosis Airway obstruction (lymphoid tissue)
Endocrine/Metabolic acromegaly Large tongue, bony overgrowths
Diabetes mellitus May have reduced mobility of altanto-
occipital joint
Hypothyroidism Large tongue, abnormal soft tissue can
make MV and intubation difficult
Thyromegaly Goiter may cause extrinsic compression or
Obesity Upper airway obstruction due to excess
soft tissue makes MV difficult


Studies have shown that, in general, there is not much benefit from routine laboratory
testing unless specifically indicated for a patients medical condition.16 Testing should be
reserved for patients in whom the results may actually lead to improved care, change in
management, or avoidance of a problem.

That being said, the invasiveness of the surgical procedure does influence the need for
routine testing. Low-risk procedures generally require minimal or no routine testing.

Low-risk surgical procedures Endoscopic procedures

Arthroscopic procedures
[Cardiac risk < 1%] Superficial procedures
Cataract surgery
Breast surgery
Intermediate-risk surgery Carotid endarterectomy
Head and neck
[Cardiac risk < 5%] Intraperitoneal
High-risk surgery Emergent major operations, particularly in
the elderly
[Cardiac risk can be > 5%] Aortic and other major vascular
Peripheral vascular
Anticipated prolonged surgical procedures
w/large fluid shifts and/or bld loss (e.g.,
major spine surgery, liver transplant)
From Eagle.17

In 2002 the ASA developed a preoperative testing advisory1, which outlines the available
studies and provides details regarding the value of different diagnostic tests.

Based on ASA advisory:

1. Healthy patients of any age undergoing a minimally invasive (low-risk) surgery

do NOT require any routine labs.
2. Exception may be to obtain baseline Cr in any patient undergoing a procedure
which will use IV contrast dye.
3. For intermediate-risk surgery, young healthy patients (age<65) again do NOT
require routine labs.

4. For intermediate-risk surgery, testing is indicated for patients age>64 or with

medical co-morbidities, i.e. chemistry panel in patients with DM or renal dz.
5. For high-risk surgery, all patients should have CBC and chemistry panel in
addition to Type/Screen or Type/Cross. Other tests such as LFTs, coags are
based on co-morbidities. However, at UCSD, most surgeons will go ahead and
order LFTs and coags for these patients. Any patient on anticoagulant therapy
will require coagulation studies after stopping therapy.
6. Routine pregnancy testing is NOT required for premenopausal women, BUT
careful history regarding possible pregnancy is required and pregnancy test
performed if indicated by history.
7. In general, the results of any test performed within the past 6 months are
acceptable as long as the patients medical condition has not changed
8. Preoperative CXR is usually only indicated for patients with a major known
respiratory condition (i.e. COPD), symptoms of a respiratory condition or CHF,
malignancy, or history of acute respiratory illness within the past 6 months. In
addition, patients undergoing cardiothoracic surgery should have a CXR.
9. PFTs are rarely necessary usually only if patient has severe COPD, SOB,
orthopnea and will be undergoing a long surgery or intrathoracic surgery.
10. Urinalysis is usually only done for patients with symptoms of UTI or undergoing
genito-urologic procedures.

The following chart is from Miller9 and is intended as a guideline if you are not sure
whether a particular patient may need certain lab studies:

Simplified strategy for preoperative and preprocedure testing based on co-morbid conditions
CBC & -
w/plt ALB hCG PT/PTT Elec BUN/Cr Glu AST/Alkp ECG CXR UA
Disease-based indications
Alcohol abuse x x x x
Adrenal cortical disease x x x
Anemia x
Cancer, except skin, x x
without known
Diabetes x x x x
Hematologic x x x

Simplified strategy for preoperative and preprocedure testing based on co-morbid conditions
CBC & -
w/plt ALB hCG PT/PTT Elec BUN/Cr Glu AST/Alkp ECG CXR UA
Exposure to hepatitis x
Hepatic disease x x x
Malignancy with x x x x x
Malnutrition x x x
Morbid obesity x x x
Peripheral vascular x x x x
disease or stroke
Personal or family x x
history of bleeding
Poor exercise tolerance x x x
or "Real Age" over 64
Possibly pregnant x
Pulmonary disease x x
Renal disease x x x x
Rheumatoid arthritis x x x
Sleep apnea x x
Smoking >40 pk-yr x x x
Suspected UTI or x
prosthesis insertion
Systemic Lupus x x x
Therapy-based indications
Radiation therapy x x x
Use of anticoagulants x x
Use of digoxin and x x x
Use of statins x x
Use of steroids x x x

Simplified strategy for preoperative and preprocedure testing based on co-morbid conditions
CBC & -
w/plt ALB hCG PT/PTT Elec BUN/Cr Glu AST/Alkp ECG CXR UA

Procedure-based indications
Procedure with x x
significant blood loss
Procedure with x
radiographic dye
Majorly invasive x x x x
For active, acute process only.
Data from Roizen,18 Kaplan et al,19 and Biery et al.20


Any male over the age of 40 and any female over the age of 50 must have an ECG
performed before receiving anesthesia.
In addition, any patient younger than these guidelines who has any clinical symptoms or
signs of heart disease should have an ECG or any patient having cardiothoracic surgery.

You are not expected to be a cardiologist when evaluating the ECG, but you should be
able to evaluate the following basic aspects:

1. Rate
2. Rhythm
3. Axis
4. Intervals
5. Conduction abnormalities
6. Hypertrophy
7. Evidence of ischemia/infarction

If you are not sure, consult an ECG text or ask a colleague for help. The appendix in
Barash10 includes some of the basics for reading an ECG.


Why is cardiac risk assessment such a big deal?

Correct risk stratification is important so that appropriate measures can be taken to

reduce the risk of perioperative MI. The perioperative period is associated with a
hypercoagulable state and stress-induced release of catecholamines, factors which can
exacerbate stress on the heart, leading to MI in patients with underlying CAD.
According to some authors, the mortality rate is over 50% for patients who have a
perioperative MI.9

Guidelines on perioperative cardiovascular evaluation for noncardiac surgery have been

published by the ACC/AHA.17 Using clinical risk factors, surgical risk factors, and
exercise tolerance, it can be determined whether a patient will need further diagnostic
cardiac testing prior to surgery. In general, invasive cardiac intervention prior to
noncardiac surgery is reserved only for those patients who would have needed it anyway
(independent of the noncardiac surgery). However, many patients can benefit from
cardiac risk reduction using perioperative beta-blocker therapy. Studies have shown that
the use of BB therapy in high-risk patients, particularly those with documented heart
muscle at risk undergoing major vascular surgery, reduces perioperative risk and may
eliminate the need for more invasive procedures.

Use the ACC/AHA flow chart to go through the stepwise process of assessing a patients
cardiac risk and the need for further testing prior to noncardiac surgery. The ACC/AHA
guidelines use 5 factors to determine whether a patient should have further cardiac
testing: (1) history and recency of coronary revascularization; (2) how long ago was the
last favorable cardiac evaluation; (3) patient co-morbidities, classified as major,
intermediate, or minor clinical predictors; (4) patients functional status; and (5) low-,
intermediate-, or high-risk surgery.

A couple of other important points:

1. Any patient with acute coronary syndrome (i.e. unstable angina or CHF
exacerbation) is at high risk of developing further decompensation, ischemia, and
possibly death during the perioperative period. These patients should undergo
noncardiac surgery prior to cardiac intervention only in emergent circumstances.
2. According the ACC/AHA Task Force, of patients who have had an MI in the past,
those within 6 weeks of the MI are at the highest risk of re-infarction during
the perioperative period. Therefore, elective surgery should be postponed at
least 6 weeks after an MI.
3. Most patients with known or suspected stable CAD can undergo noncardiac
surgery with relative safety if they are treated with perioperative BB therapy.
4. Exercise tolerance is one of the strongest factors in determining cardiac risk.
Patients with >4 METS functional capacity will NOT require any further cardiac
testing. Patients who become symptomatic (i.e. chest pain, SOB) at <4 METS are

considered to have poor functional status and may need further cardiac testing.
[The flow chart on p.19 lists examples of activities consistent with 1 MET, 4
METS, and >10 METS.]
5. Further cardiac testing should not be ordered unless the results will impact
perioperative management.

How do beta-blockers and/or coronary revascularization prior to noncardiac surgery

reduce perioperative risk?
The theory is that beta-blockers reduce demand on the heart, while revascularization
improves supply in patients with critical stenoses.23

A few notes about aortic stenosis and valvular disease:

According to Fleisher21, the presence of critical aortic stenosis has been associated
with a prohibitive risk of undergoing elective noncardiac surgery. The presence of
any of the classic triad of angina, syncope, and heart failure in a patient with aortic
stenosis should alert the clinician to the need for further evaluation and potential
According to Park22, patients who have severe AS can undergo indicated noncardiac
surgery safely provided that the presence of severe AS is recognized and they receive
intensive intraoperative and perioperative care with full knowledge of the
implications of AS.
According to John and Seiber24, because the elderly are at increased risk for
significant valvular disease, the presence of a murmur on physical exam should
prompt an echocardiographic evaluation to assess valvular pathology and cardiac

Note about conduction abnormalities:

According to Jin and Cheung25, conduction abnormalities such as Mobitz 2-second
degree heart block or complete third degree heart block should be treated with a
pacemaker before elective procedures.

Note about patients with pacemakers:

Try to get as much information as possible about the pacemaker because it will
probably be necessary to contact the pacemaker representative on the day of surgery
for reprogramming or interrogation.
Information to obtain includes: [some patients will have an information card]
- manufacturer (e.g., St. Jude, Medtronics, etc.), model and serial number
- name of patients cardiologist (may need to get all this information from MD)
- mode of pacemaker (e.g., DDDR, VVI, etc.)
- WHY the patient has a pacemaker (e.g., sick sinus syndrome, AV block, etc.)
- What is the patients underlying rhythm?


Diabetes Mellitus (DM)

Diabetes mellitus is classified as insulin-dependent (IDDM) or non-insulin-dependent

(NIDDM). Most of our patients fall into the NIDDM category, which is almost always
associated with obesity as well.

The most serious acute complication of DM is ketoacidosis, but what we will see more
commonly are manifestations of chronic DM related to macroangiopathies,
microangiopathies, and neuropathies. These manifestations can have significant impact
on patient management during the perioperative period.

Common problems associated with DM9:

Hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia
Autonomic neuropathy (including cardiac autonomic neuropathy and
Vascular disease (including CAD, cerebral vascular, and peripheral vascular
Renal disease
Stiff joints
Peripheral neuropathy

Things to assess during the preoperative evaluation:

1. Cardiac risk assessment and whether this patient should be on a beta-blocker

DM is an intermediate clinical predictor.
2. Evidence of other vascular disease (h/o claudication or CVA).
3. Renal dysfunction.
4. What is the usual range of patients blood sugar measurements? If patient does
not check, consider checking glycohemoglobin.
5. Limited joint mobility (including TMJ and cervical) may affect airway
6. Peripheral neuropathy increases risk of also having autonomic neuropathy and
may affect regional anesthesia site.
7. Blood glucose and electrolytes should be checked preoperatively in any patient
who will be having general anesthesia.
8. Discuss which medications the patient should discontinue preoperatively (see
section on Patient Medications).

A few key points about operative management of the diabetic patient:


1. Finger stick glucose should be checked on the morning of surgery in the pre-op
area. Measurement of intraoperative glucose and electrolytes is indicated based
on duration and magnitude of the surgery (definitely for long cases or surgeries
associated with major fluid shifts).
2. The best way to avoid perioperative exacerbation of problems related to DM is to
maintain proper glucose control and avoid dehydration and electrolyte
disturbances. Frequent monitoring of glucose, volume status, acid/base status,
and electrolytes guides therapy.
3. If the patient has peripheral sensory neuropathy, he/she is at higher risk of also
having autonomic neuropathy.
4. Signs of cardiac autonomic neuropathy include orthostatic hypotension, resting
tachycardia, and absent variation in heart rate with deep breathing. These patients
have an increased risk of sudden death.9 Sudden bradycardia and hypotension can
occur during anesthesia may be resistant to Atropine and Ephedrine and may
require treatment with Epinephrine (10 mcg IV at a time).26
5. Another manifestation of autonomic neuropathy is gastroparesis which causes
delayed emptying of solids and may increase the risk of aspiration on induction or
emergence from anesthesia. Consider methods for decreasing aspiration risk.
6. Peripheral nerves in diabetics are more susceptible to compression injury so extra
care should be taken in padding all pressure points.

Hypertension (HTN)

Essential hypertension is a risk factor for the development of CAD, CHF, renal
dysfunction, and stroke. Medical therapy aimed at controlling hypertension reduces these
risks. Long-standing uncontrolled hypertension leads to left ventricular hypertrophy
(LVH), which causes diastolic ventricular dysfunction and also increases the hearts
demand for oxygen. Patients who remain hypertensive before the induction of anesthesia
are at increased risk for intraoperative hypotension and myocardial ischemia.27

Things to assess during the preoperative evaluation:

1. What range of blood pressures is normal for this patient? What is this patients
baseline BP? BP should be checked in the pre-op clinic and it may also be helpful
to review the patients chart to get an idea of baseline blood pressures. This will
be important in determining the goal MAP to maintain intraoperatively.
2. If the patients blood pressure is excessively high (i.e., >180/110), it may be
necessary to refer the patient to primary care MD for medication management.
3. Evidence of end-organ dysfunction history of CHF, CVA, renal dysfunction.
4. Cardiac risk assessment and whether this patient should be on a beta-blocker.
5. Discuss medications in general, patients should continue anti-hypertensive
medications throughout the perioperative period.
6. Discuss possibility of invasive monitoring (i.e., arterial line).

A few key points about operative management of the patient with hypertension:

1. It is common for patients with HTN to have exaggerated blood pressure responses
intraoperatively. For example, the patient who is initially hypertensive may
become hypotensive during induction of anesthesia. Anesthesia can unmask
intravascular volume depletion due to chronic hypertension. Alternatively, the
patient may become dramatically hypertensive during laryngoscopy or surgical
stimulation. Be prepared for wide fluctuations and be ready to treat these
2. Use 5-lead ECG for patients with HTN because there is a good chance they also
have CAD.
3. The autoregulation curve for cerebral blood flow is shifted to the right in patients
with chronic HTN; therefore, they are at increased risk of cerebral ischemia if
perfusion pressure decreases. Keep MAP within 20-25% of baseline MAP.
4. During long or extensive surgeries or for patients with poorly controlled HTN, an
arterial line is indicated and you should also consider the need for central venous
monitoring +/- PAC.


More common in pediatric patients, but estimated to affect up to 10% of patients

older than 55.28
Chronic inflammatory changes in airway mucosa.
Reversible obstruction to expiratory airflow.
Airway hyperactivity and development of bronchospasm in response to stimuli.
Clinical symptoms include wheezing and dyspnea.

Things to assess during preoperative evaluation:

1. How severe and frequent is the patients asthma? Hospitalized recently?

Required intubation? Required treatment with steroids?
2. How often does asthma occur and what triggers it?
3. What medications (inhalers) does patient use and how often?
4. Auscultate for wheezing.
5. Pre-op PFTs or ABG may be indicated in patient scheduled for thoracic or major
abdominal operation.
6. Has the patient been on steroids recently and for how long? - may need stress
dose steroids during surgery.
7. Instruct patient to bring inhalers on day of surgery.

A few key points about operative management of the patient with asthma:

1. Pre-op bronchodilator treatment may be helpful.


2. If possible, regional anesthesia may be better option for patient with severe
3. Goal during general anesthesia is to depress airway reflexes and avoid hyper-
reactive bronchospasm in response to stimulation. Make sure the patient is
deep enough before attempting intubation. Propofol and Ketamine are good
induction agents. Can start volatile agent while still mask ventilating Sevo and
Iso are bronchodilators.
4. Treat intraoperative bronchospasm with beta-2 agonist and deepening of
anesthesia with volatile agent. However, it is important to rule out other causes of
increased pulmonary pressures such as mechanical obstruction, endobronchial
intubation, and pulmonary aspiration.
5. If patient has recently been on steroids, consider stress-dose steroid administration
during surgery, especially if patient has refractory hypotension.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Regional differences in airway resistance lead to areas of V/Q mismatch, which

can lead to arterial hypoxemia.
May retain carbon dioxide and develop respiratory acidosis.
Clinical symptoms include dyspnea, wheezing, productive cough, increased work
of breathing.
Usually associated with history of cigarette smoking.
Irreversible airway obstruction characterized by increased total lung capacity
(TLC) and residual volume (RV), but decreased forced expiratory volume in 1
second (FEV1).
Increased risk of postoperative respiratory failure.

Things to assess during preoperative evaluation:

1. Severity of disease - Use of inhalers and how often? Recent hospitalizations?

Recent steroid use? Use of home oxygen?
2. Chest x-ray for evidence of pneumonia or bullae.
3. PFTs or ABG may be indicated depending on type of surgery and severity of
4. Auscultate lungs.
5. Has the patient been on steroids recently may need intraoperative stress-dose
6. Instruct patient to bring inhalers on day of surgery.

A few key points about operative management of the patient with COPD:

1. Preoperative bronchodilators.
2. Regional anesthesia may be better option.

3. Caution with nitrous oxide can cause enlargement of bullae and lead to
4. Important to humidify inspired gases to prevent drying of secretions.
5. Use smaller tidal volumes and longer time for exhalation (slow breathing rates,
decreased I:E ratio).
6. If recent steroid use, consider intraoperative stress-dose steroid administration.


When discussing the potential types of anesthesia that a patient may undergo, it is
important to keep in mind the following:

1. Some surgical procedures may only be performed under general anesthesia while
other procedures may be possible with a variety of anesthetic techniques.
2. The patients medical history may strongly influence the type of anesthesia that
should be offered.
3. The risks and benefits of various anesthetic techniques should be discussed with
the patient.
4. Often it is possible to tailor anesthetic technique based on patient (or even
surgeon) preference.
5. However, for safety reasons, the patient should understand that the ultimate
decision regarding anesthetic technique will be made by the anesthesiologist
present for the patients surgery.
6. Many patients will not KNOW what kind of anesthesia they prefer (even after
discussing it with you).

What should you tell patients about the different types of anesthesia performed at UCSD?

I. General anesthesia

Most patients think of general as going to sleep or being completely

Patient should understand that under GA, they will have a breathing
device (most likely an ETT or LMA) and they should be aware of the risk
of dental injury.
GA can be given via inhalational gases or IV meds we often use a
Advantages: will not hear anything or remember anything, will be
completely under.
Disadvantages: post-op nausea/vomiting, feeling groggy in PACU,
requires control of airway, may have minor post-op sore throat, will
require IV/PO meds for post-op analgesia.
GA can be used for almost any type of surgical procedure; however, if the
patient has a significant medical history (i.e. poor lung function), it may be
prudent to go with an alternate form of anesthesia.

II. MAC = Monitored Anesthesia Care

Minimally invasive procedures can be performed under MAC.


MAC is usually combined with LOCAL anesthesia given by the surgeon or

REGIONAL anesthesia given by you.
Patients often think of MAC as twilight sleep or conscious sedation.
Explain to the patient that they will not be completely awake. They may even
sleep throughout the surgical procedure, but it may be possible for them to
hear or remember things from the surgery.
They may feel the initial injection of LOCAL anesthesia.
The major advantage over GA is that patient can spontaneously breathe and
usually only requires a green O2 mask or nasal cannula.
Another advantage is they may feel less groggy in PACU.
Disadvantages: not good for long procedures because patient may become
uncomfortable on OR table, not good when you need a secure airway.
Examples of procedures which can be performed under MAC/LOCAL
o Variety of eye procedures i.e. cataract surgery
o Cath lab procedures
o Breast biopsy
o Endoscopic procedures
o Arthroscopic procedures

III. Regional anesthesia

Regional anesthesia uses local anesthetics to numb an area of the body. Three types of
regional anesthesia are SPINAL, EPIDURAL, and PERIPHERAL NERVE BLOCKS.

Regional anesthesia is usually combined with MAC so that patients do not have to be
completely awake during the surgery. On the other hand, the rare patient will want to be
completely awake and therefore regional anesthesia takes care of pain control.

Spinal anesthesia:

Local anesthetics and/or opioids are given as a single shot into the subarachnoid
Takes effect quickly and blocks sensation in the lower body.
Often used for rectal, bladder, prostate, gynecologic, and lower extremity
Must know duration of surgery and make sure spinal will last longer than
Advantages: patient can spontaneously ventilate, avoids PACU grogginess, less
post-op nausea/vomiting (but may have intra-op N/V if BP drops too much),
avoids other complications associated with GA (oral trauma, aspiration),
attenuates stress response; some studies have shown less blood loss, fewer
thromboembolic complications, and improved LE graft patency.

Disadvantages: not good for long procedures (>3 hrs unless an intrathecal catheter
is placed), patient may hear or remember things from OR, sometimes technically
difficult or impossible to perform, can get significant hypotension, possible
pruritis if intrathecal opioids are used, possible urinary retention, small risk of
high spinal may lead to bradycardia and/or respiratory difficulty necessitating
conversion to GA.

Epidural anesthesia:

Catheter is placed in the epidural space and is used for bolus or continuous dosing
of local anesthetics and/or opioids.
Can provide anesthesia for surgery on the lower body or analgesia in combination
with GA
Can be re-dosed if surgery lasts longer than expected.
Main advantage is able to provide superior post-op analgesia.
Advantages: patient can spontaneously ventilate (unless in combination w/ GA),
less GA may be used, can re-bolus or use continuous infusion, less hypotension
than spinal anesthesia.
Disadvantages: risk of post-dural puncture headache, can be technically difficult
in elderly patients or those with misalignment of back, sometimes doesnt work
even if placed with proper technique due to patchy spread of local anesthetic.

Peripheral nerve blocks (PNBs):

Local anesthetic injected in proximity to nerve(s) to provide numbness over

surgical area.
Upper extremity blocks often used for hand/wrist/shoulder procedures.
Lower extremity blocks often used for foot/ankle/knee procedures.
Usually used with MAC or GA but can be combined with a spinal or epidural.
Can provide excellent post-op analgesia for up to 24 hours.
Advantages: post-op analgesia, avoids or lessens amount of GA, patient can
spontaneously ventilate (unless GA), reduces post-op nausea/vomiting.
Disadvantages: requires experience, requires evaluation and supplementation
which can take extra time, not good if patient cannot cooperate.
Examples of PNBs: brachial plexus blocks (axillary, interscalene), IV regional
anesthesia (Bier block), lumbar plexus block, sciatic nerve block, ankle block.

Before meeting with the patient, you should look up the surgical procedure in Jaffe12
that way you will know which kind of anesthetic techniques are appropriate to discuss
with the patient.




Patients will often ask the question What are the risks of anesthesia?

The answer to this question is complex because the risks are different for each patient
based on co-morbidities, type of surgery, and of course, experience and vigilance of the
anesthesiologist. The following information should give you an overall sense of what
factors determine the risks of anesthesia and allow you to give patients a reasonable
answer to the question. One thing is clear: Data has demonstrated that risk directly
attributable to anesthesia has declined over time and is rare.9

Multiple studies have examined the factors associated with increased perioperative
mortality and morbidity and have tried to pinpoint which factors may be attributable to
anesthesia. Unfortunately it would be difficult to perform a randomized controlled trial
on what anesthetic properties directly contribute to increased morbidity and mortality;
therefore, the data that does exist is from retrospective studies.

A recurring factor in many of these studies is ASA Physical Status Classification:

ASA Status Description

1 Normal healthy patient (independent of the planned surgery)
2 Mild systemic disease, but no functional limitations
3 Severe systemic disease that results in functional limitations
4 Severe systemic disease that is a constant threat to life
5 Critically ill patient not expected to survive without the surgery
6 Brain-dead patient whose organs are being harvested for donation
E Any patient who needs an emergent operation

Many studies have supported the fact that major complications occur more frequently in
patients with extensive co-morbidities (as characterized by ASA status). In addition,
major complications tend to occur more frequently in elderly patients (possibly because
they are more likely to have higher ASA status) and also in patients undergoing emergent
procedures. One study (Dripps et al.29) found that no deaths were attributable to
anesthesia among 16,000 patients with ASA I physical status.

Other examples of retrospective study results on anesthesia-related mortality:

Study investigators Anesthesia-related mortality

Tikkanen and Hovi-Viander30 0.15 per 10,000 procedures

French survey31 1 in 185,000 procedures
Lagasse32 1 in 13,000 procedures

In these studies, the most common causes of death attributable to anesthesia included:

1. Equipment failure
2. Intubation complication
3. Pulmonary aspiration of gastric contents
4. Postoperative respiratory depression
5. Anaphylactic shock
6. Cardiac arrest
7. Medication error

Other common causes of death not necessarily attributable to anesthesia included:

1. Bronchopneumonia
2. CHF
3. MI
4. PE
5. Respiratory failure

The surgical procedure itself also significantly influences perioperative risk. Almost all
of the studies have shown that emergency surgery is associated with additional risk.
Next, cardiovascular surgery is associated with the highest risk, then major vascular
surgery. Intrathoracic and abdominal procedures are associated with an intermediate risk.

Elderly patients are more likely to have co-morbidities and a decreased level of
functioning. According to John and Seiber24, the best predictor of postoperative level of
functioning is preoperative level of functioning. Studies have shown that inability to
perform Activities of Daily Life (ADLs) independently and also weight loss > 10%
within 6 months are risk factors for postoperative pneumonia in the elderly. In fact, these
2 risk factors may be more important than smoking and COPD.24 Postoperative
pneumonia carries a high 30-day mortality..>20% in a study by Arozullah et al.33

Help patients to understand that the goal of the anesthesiologist is to reduce the risks
related to their co-morbidities.

Anesthesiologists must view perioperative organ protection as part of their goals to

provide the highest quality of care and reduce perioperative risk.21

Ok, aside from mortality, what most patients really want to know are the common
complications or side effects from anesthesia:

- Post-operative nausea and vomiting
- Waking up in pain

- Post-operative sore throat

- Confusion/grogginess upon awakening

Less common:

- Stress on the heart, including ischemia

- Heart arrhythmia
- Post-dural puncture headache associated with epidural/spinal anesthesia
- Bleeding or infection at site of regional anesthesia
- Nerve injury
- Dental injury
- Myalgias
- Allergy to anesthetic medication
- Postoperative respiratory distress
- Prolonged intubation and/or pulmonary complications (esp. if pt has
underlying pulm dz), pulmonary aspiration


- Awareness under anesthesia

- Anaphylactic reaction
- Local anesthetic toxicity
- Epidural hematoma or abscess
- Organ failure
- Death


All patients will have at least 1 peripheral IV prior to induction of anesthesia (with the
exception of pediatric patients undergoing inhalational induction).

Other invasive monitors and modes of access will be based on the patients medical
condition and the type of surgical procedure.

Jaffe12 provides a good guideline about which procedures typically require invasive
monitors. Also, patients with significant medical co-morbidities may require invasive
monitors for induction of anesthesia, even if the surgical procedure is low-risk.

On the day of surgery, the anesthesiologist will ultimately decide and inform the patient
if invasive monitors are necessary, but it is always a good idea to forewarn the patient
during the preop visit if you suspect that invasive monitors will be necessary. Explaining
why certain monitors may be necessary can expedite the process on the day of surgery.

Arterial line: allows beat-to-beat monitoring of blood pressure and provides access to
obtain blood samples for analyses of ABGs and electrolytes. In general, A-lines offer
low risk with high benefit in patients with co-morbidities such as cardiac disease or HTN.
They are also helpful for surgical procedures with extensive fluid shifts, blood loss, or
situations where frequent labs are required. The risk of arterial thrombosis is low if the
catheter is continuously flushed with heparinized saline. Other complications include
hematoma, bleeding, vasospasm, air embolism, nerve damage, infection, unintentional
intra-arterial drug injection.34

Central venous catheter: allows continuous monitoring of volume status by central

venous pressure (which parallels right heart pressures) and provides venous access for
rapid infusion of fluids or infusion of drugs which may be toxic to peripheral veins.
Complications associated with placement of a central line include carotid artery
puncture/cannulation, pneumothorax, infection, air or thrombus embolism, hematoma,
bleeding, trauma to the brachial plexus, and thoracic duct damage.35

PA catheter: allows continuous monitoring of pulmonary pressures, intermittent

monitoring of pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (which parallels left heart pressures),
thermodilution for estimation of cardiac output and calculation of other hemodynamic
measures. Indications for the use of a PAC are controversial because complications can
be severe or even fatal. Common indications include poor left ventricular function (EF <
40%), need for assessment of intravascular fluid volume or response to vasopressors,
valvular heart disease, ARDS, massive shock or hemorrhage, and surgical procedures
with an increased risk of complications from hemodynamic changes (i.e. cardiac or major
vascular surgery). Risks include those associated with central line placement as well as
cardiac dysrhythmias, heart block, pulmonary ischemia or infarction, pulmonary artery
perforation, hemorrhage, bacteremia/endocarditis. The risk of complications increases
with the duration of catheterization which should not exceed 72 hours.36

Examples of possible indications for PAC:

CAD w/ LV dysfunction or recent MI
Valvular heart dz, especially severe AS
Heart failure
Acute resp failure (i.e. ARDS)
Pulmonary HTN
Severe COPD
Complex fluid management shock, trauma, ARF, acute burns, hemorrhagic pancreatitis
Specific surgical procedures CABG, valve replacement, pericardiectomy, aortic cross-
clamping (i.e. aortic aneurysm repair), sitting craniotomies, portal systemic shunts
High-risk obstetrics severe toxemia, placental abruption


All medications should be reviewed and the patient should be instructed regarding
continuing or discontinuing any meds during the perioperative period, including what to
take on the morning of surgery. Although patients are NPO on the morning of surgery,
they make take any necessary medications 2 hours before surgery with a small sip of

Some controversy exists about which medications should be discontinued perioperatively

and for how long prior to surgery. In addition, there are few controlled trials regarding
perioperative medication management, so decisions are often made based on past
experience or manufacturers recommendations.

Mercado and Petty37 offer a nice review of the literature and provide recommendations
based on available data (through 2003). The following are recommendations based on
their review:

Cardiac drugs - in general, should be continued through the morning of surgery.

1. Beta-blockers should always be continued perioperatively. Observational studies

have shown increased risk of perioperative MI and death in vascular patients
whose BBs were discontinued.
2. Antiarrhythmics should be continued.
3. Digoxin should be continued and serum level should be checked preoperatively.
4. Antihypertensives should, in general, be continued. The exception to this is large
doses of diuretics which can exacerbate hypovolemia and may be stopped on the
morning of surgery (assuming the patient can tolerate stopping). Some authors
argue that ACE inhibitors and ARBs may contribute to intraoperative
hypotension, but the clinical significance of this is controversial. Clonidine
should NOT be stopped because sudden cessation can lead to rebound

Pulmonary drugs in general, should be continued through the morning of surgery.

1. Inhaled agents, including beta agonists, anticholinergic agents, and steroids

should be continued and the patient should bring inhalers so they may be used
immediately prior to surgery.
2. Leukotriene inhibitors (Zafirlukast, Montelukast) and lipoxygenase inhibitors
(Zileuton) should be continued.
3. Steroids should be continued and the patient may require a stress dose of
Hydrocortisone intraoperatively.
4. Theophylline may be continued, but serum level should be checked

Diabetic agents

1. Insulin

patients should take their usual PM dose the night prior to surgery, then only
take one-third to one-half their usual AM dose on the morning of surgery.
patients with an insulin pump should continue their basal rate only.
Finger-stick blood glucose should always be checked when the patient arrives
and before induction of anesthesia.

2. Metformin should be STOPPED 2 days prior to surgery (because of the rare

associated lactic acidosis).
3. Other oral antiglycemics should be STOPPED on the morning of surgery
(because may lead to intraoperative hypoglycemia).

Antiplatelet agents and Anticoagulants

1. Aspirin should be STOPPED 7 days preoperatively, especially in alcoholics

(because they often have underlying platelet dysfunction).

*There is one exception: occasionally, a cardiac patient will be told by the

cardiologist to continue Aspirin perioperatively, in which case the patient should
listen to the cardiologist.

2. Aggrenox contains Aspirin, so should be STOPPED 7 days preoperatively

unless told to continue by cardiologist.
3. Clopidogrel (Plavix) and Ticlopidine (Ticlid) should be STOPPED 7 days
preoperatively (both drugs irreversibly inhibit platelets).
4. Cilostazol (Pletal) should be STOPPED 3 days prior to surgery (has a shorter
half-life and causes reversible platelet inhibition).
5. NSAIDs (COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors) should be STOPPED 3 days prior to
surgery (COX-1 because of reversible inhibition of platelet cyclooxygenase and
COX-2 because of potential renal issues).
6. Warfarin should be STOPPED 4-5 days preoperatively and the patients INR
should be checked prior to surgery.

Note: To avoid confusing our patients, we often just tell them to stop all of the above
drugs 1 week prior to surgery.

7. Unfractionated heparin
Therapeutic doses of heparin should be HELD 12 hours prior to surgery.
Prophylactic doses (for DVT prophylaxis) can be continued unless the
patient will be having regional (neuraxial) anesthesia.

8. Low molecular weight heparin Lovenox (enoxaparin) and Fragmin (dalteparin)

In general, should be held 12-24 hours prior to surgery, but check with the
primary team before instructing the patient.

Important note: Due to the risk of spinal hematoma, there are special guidelines for
epidural catheter placement (and removal) in relation to anticoagulants, including the use
of prophylactic doses of heparin and LMWH. See the next section of this syllabus.

Osteoporosis drugs

1. Raloxifene (Evista) should be STOPPED at least 7 days prior to surgery (has

been shown to increase the risk of perioperative DVT).
2. Estrogen (as used for Hormone Replacement Therapy) also increases the risk of
DVT; no data regarding how long it should be discontinued preoperatively (some
authors have suggested 4 weeks); recommend telling patients to STOP at least 7
days preoperatively. Note: if used for contraception, see p.37 under Endocrine
3. Alendronate (Fosamax) no guidelines, but is associated with GI side effects, so
recommend stopping in the week prior to surgery.

Neurologic drugs

1. Anti-Parkinsonian agents should be continued through the morning of surgery,

but you should be aware of the possible interactions with anesthetic agents.
Return of Parkinsonian symptoms can develop even within hours of
stopping carbidopa/levodopa (this is why we tell patients to continue
through morning of surgery).
Prolonged cessation can cause levodopa withdrawal syndrome which is
associated with symptoms similar to neuroleptic malignant syndrome.
You should be aware that carbidopa/levodopa can interact with anesthetic
agents leading to the possibility of intraoperative arrhythmias.
You should also be aware that some anti-emetic agents (i.e., droperidol,
metoclopramide) can cause adverse effects in patients with Parkinsons
Selegiline is an MAOI occasionally used to treat Parkinsons disease and
has been reported to cause a potentially fatal interaction with meperidine.
If a patient is on selegiline, then meperidine should be strictly avoided
perioperatively and other narcotics should be given with caution and close
2. Antiseizure medications should be continued through the morning of surgery.

Be aware that many anti-epileptics have central depressant properties and

may reduce the required doses of anesthetic agents (decrease MAC).
Serum levels of phenytoin, carbamazepine, valproic acid should be
checked preoperatively.

Psychiatric meds

1. Tricyclic antidepressants may be continued. Be aware of anticholinergic side

2. MAO inhibitors should be STOPPED 2 weeks prior to surgery. In the case of
urgent surgery, be extremely cautious with sympathomimetics, anticholinergics,
and avoid meperidine (can develop life-threatening hypertensive crisis).
3. SSRIs should be continued through the morning of surgery (discontinuation can
lead to withdrawal symptoms).
4. Other antidepressants (venlafaxine, bupropion, mirtazapime, nefazodone) may
be continued (no known withdrawal syndrome or interaction with anesthetics).
5. Antipsychotics (phenothiazines and butyrophenones) should be continued
preoperatively (due to risk of withdrawal akinesia or rebound agitation). Be
aware that they may enhance the effects of narcotics and barbiturates. Also may
cause ECG abnormalities, including QT prolongation. Phenothiazines can
decrease seizure threshold in susceptible patients.
6. Anxiolytics benzodiazepines may be continued.
7. Lithium may be continued preoperatively. Serum levels should be checked
preoperatively. Be aware that Lithium can prolong the action of muscle relaxants.

Endocrine agents

1. Thyroid medications should be continued through the morning of surgery.

Thyroid studies should be performed preoperatively.
2. Steroids may be continued. Any patient who has received steroids for more
than 1 week in the several months prior to surgery should be considered for
perioperative stress dose steroids to avoid adrenal insufficiency and
3. Estrogen (oral contraceptives) studies have shown that Estrogen increases the
risk of thromboembolism perioperatively. That being said, the risks/benefits of
perioperative DVT vs. perioperative pregnancy should be discussed with the
patient. If the patient is willing to use alternative contraception, it may be wise to
have her discontinue OCPs up to 1 month prior to surgery.

Rheumatologic drugs

1. Methotrexate controversial. There have been concerns regarding wound healing

and infectious complications, although no studies have supported these concerns.
One study showed no problems and that it did not need to be discontinued
2. Leflunomide (immune modulator used to treat RA) no known perioperative
adverse effects, but no controlled trials. Can cause pancytopenia and hepatic
dysfunction so labs should be checked preoperatively.

HIV drugs antiretroviral drugs should be continued (because resistance can develop
rapidly if doses are missed).

Viagra, Levitra, Cialis should be STOPPED 3 days prior to surgery.

Herbal medications

Several commonly used herbal agents have been associated with perioperative
Herbal medications are not regulated by the FDA and therefore may vary
among different manufacturers.
For these reasons, patients should be instructed to STOP all herbal
medications at least 7 days prior to surgery.


Multivitamins may be continued, but are not necessary.

Vitamin E should be STOPPED a few days prior to surgery.


Be aware that aminoglycosides can potentiate neuromuscular blockers.



Epidural (or spinal) hematoma can be a catastrophic consequence of neuraxial anesthesia

and can lead to permanent neurological impairment including paralysis. In order to
reduce the risk of spinal hematoma, the following recommendations have been published
by the American Society of Regional Anesthesia (ASRA).38

*Note the following recommendations assume that the patient is being treated with only
one particular anticoagulant. Patients being treated with more than one agent
concurrently may have increased risk of spinal hematoma.

Unfractionated IV Heparin

1. Discontinue IV Heparin at least 4 hours before and check aPTT to confirm

normalization before performing neuraxial anesthesia.
2. After placement of neuraxial catheter, wait at least 1 hour before starting or re-
dosing IV Heparin. This includes intra-operative IV Heparin (i.e. vascular
procedures), which also should not be given until at least 1 hour after the
neuraxial anesthesia was placed.
3. Wait at least 2-4 hours and check aPTT for normalization prior to removing a
neuraxial catheter. Again, wait at least 1 hour before re-starting IV Heparin. The
patient should have q 2hr neuro checks for at least 12 hours following catheter

Prophylactic SQ Heparin

1. According the American Society of Regional Anesthesia, there is no

contraindication to neuraxial anesthesia in a patient receiving SQ Heparin. They
do recommend delaying the next dose of SQ Heparin until after the block is
2. The German Society of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine recommends
waiting 4 hours before neuraxial anesthesia and not re-dosing SQ Heparin for 1
hour after placement or removal of the catheter.
3. Patients who have been receiving SQ Heparin for more than 4 days should have
their platelet count checked prior to neuraxial block or catheter removal (due to
the risk of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia).

Recommendations regarding intra-operative IV Heparin

1. Avoid neuraxial anesthesia in any patient known to have any type of

2. Wait at least 1 hour after the placement of neuraxial anesthesia before
administering IV Heparin. [Some authors even advocate placing epidural catheter
the day before the surgery for patients who will receive systemic IV Heparin for
cardiopulmonary bypass].

3. Use the smallest amount of Heparin for the shortest duration possible to achieve
therapeutic goals.
4. If a traumatic tap occurs, individual risk-benefit assessment should be discussed
with the surgeon as to whether to proceed with surgery or delay the case 24 hours.
In the case of surgery involving cardiopulmonary bypass where the patient will be
receiving high-dose systemic IV Heparin, the case should be delayed 24 hours.
5. Do not remove neuraxial catheters until normal coagulation is restored as
evidenced by normalization of aPTT. Do not re-heparinize for at least 1 hour
after catheter removal.
6. The patients neurological function should be closely monitored post-operatively.

Low Molecular Weight Heparin (LMWH)

1. For patients being treated with therapeutic doses of LMWH, it should be

discontinued at least 24 hours prior to neuraxial anesthesia.
2. For patients being treated with thromboprophylactic doses of LMWH, it should
be discontinued at least 12 hours prior to neuraxial anesthesia.
3. If a patient will be receiving twice daily dosing of LMWH for
thromboprophylaxis postoperatively, the first dose should not occur until at least
24 hours postoperatively. Any indwelling neuraxial catheter should be removed
at least 2 hours before this first dose.
4. If a patient will be receiving once daily dosing of LMWH for thromboprophylaxis
postoperatively, the first dose should not occur until at least 8 hours
postoperatively. The second dose should not occur for 24 hours after the first
dose. If a neuraxial catheter is not removed before the initiation of LMWH, wait
at least 12 hours after the last dose before removing it. Wait at least 2 hours after
catheter removal before administering the next dose of LMWH.

Oral Warfarin

1. Coumadin should be stopped ideally 4-5 days before and PT/INR should be
checked prior to neuraxial anesthesia. The life of Coumadin varies from 48-72
2. Neuraxial catheters should not be removed until INR < 1.5.

*Note: even if INR < 1.5, hemostasis may not be normal. Normal hemostasis
may not be present until INR is within normal limits.

Antiplatelet agents

1. NSAIDs alone do not significantly increase the risk of spinal hematoma, but in
combination with other anticoagulant agents there have been reports of increased
bleeding complications, including spinal hematoma.
2. Ticlopidine should be discontinued 14 days prior to neuraxial anesthesia.
3. Clopidogrel should be discontinued 7 days prior to neuraxial anesthesia.

4. GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors should be discontinued at least 48 hours prior to neuraxial


Thrombolytic therapy there are no published studies regarding neuraxial anesthesia in

patients receiving thrombolytic therapy, but there are a few case reports of spinal
hematomas, from which recommendations are suggested.39

1. Thrombolytic therapy should not be started in a patient with a history of lumbar

puncture, spinal or epidural anesthesia, or epidural steroid injection in the last 10
days. [Unfortunately, this may be out of our hands since we would not be the
ones starting thrombolytic tx].
2. During a pre-op evaluation, ask the patient if he/she has received any fibrinolytic
or thrombolytic drugs recently (i.e. for history of MI or CVA). If yes, then the
patient should probably not receive neuraxial anesthesia. Data is not available on
the length of time to wait for neuraxial anesthesia after discontinuation of
3. In the situation where a patient receives neuraxial anesthesia and then
unexpectedly gets started on thrombolytics, neuro checks should be performed
every 2 hours until the thrombolytics are discontinued.
4. If a neuraxial catheter is in place when a patient is started on fibrinolytics, it is
recommended to follow fibrinogen levels and wait until normal levels are
achieved before removing the catheter (again, no data for this recommendation).
5. Bottom line due to the risk of serious hemorrhagic events in patients who are
known to have received or be receiving thrombolytic therapy, it is prudent to
avoid neuraxial anesthesia.


During the preoperative evaluation, you can get a sense of whether the patient may
benefit from premedication. If you think a preoperative medication is indicated, you
should document it as part of your anesthetic plan so that whoever actually does the case
can consider your suggestion. In general, premedication will be given by the
anesthesiologist on the day of surgery in the pre-op holding area. If you feel that
premedication will be important prior to the anesthesiologist seeing the patient on the day
of surgery, you can contact the primary surgery team and recommend that they order the

What is premedication useful for?

1. Psychological preparation
a. Anxiolysis benzodiazepines most commonly used just prior to elective
surgery for mild/moderate sedation and relief of anxiety.
b. Amnesia benzos can provide anterograde amnesia (e.g., can prevent patient
from remembering rolling back to the OR) and some retrograde amnesia.
c. Insomnia occasionally, patients may need medication the night before
surgery to relieve insomnia associated with anxiety (again, benzos can be used
or other sedating medications).
2. Pain control
a. Analgesia may be necessary for patients experiencing preoperative pain in the
pre-op holding area.
b. Premedication with opioids facilitates placement of invasive monitors prior to
induction of anesthesia.
c. Opioids also helpful prior to performing a regional anesthetic technique.
3. Antisialogogue effect
a. If the patient requires an awake fiberoptic intubation, pretreatment with an
anticholinergic agent helps reduce oropharyngeal secretions.
[Caution in patients with cardiac disease as anticholinergics increase
heart rate].
i. Scopolamine provides antisialogogue effect and some sedation.
ii. Glycopyrolate provides antisialogogue effect without sedation.
4. Aspiration precautions
a. Consider in patients who have increased risk of pulmonary aspiration
(parturients, morbid obesity, significant GERD, full stomach, diabetics with
b. H2 antagonists e.g., ranitidine - blocks histamine release from parietal cells,
which decreases the secretion of acidic gastric fluid.
c. Antacids e.g., sodium citrate increases the pH of gastric fluid already
present in the stomach.
d. Prokinetics e.g., metoclopramide stimulates gastric emptying.
5. Attenuation of sympathetic nervous system responses

a. Inclusion of an opioid in the premedication (also known as preemptive

analgesia) has been shown to decrease the likelihood that undesirable
increases in heart rate will accompany surgical stimulation (or laryngoscopy)
during administration of volatile anesthetics.40
b. Beta-blockers IV beta-blockers (e.g., metoprolol) may be titrated to decrease
heart rate prior to the induction of anesthesia.
c. Alpha-2 agonists IV clonidine or dexmedetomidine can be used
preoperatively to produce sedation and attenuate hypertension and tachycardia
associated with catecholamine release.
6. Antibiotics
a. Often given at the same time as other premedication to establish plasma
concentration of the drug prior to surgical incision.


Pain control

Studies have shown that perioperative pain is better tolerated if patients have been
educated about the different modalities for treating pain. Discussing methods for post-op
pain control also helps reassure patients that we view pain control as an important issue.

According to guidelines for acute pain management in the perioperative setting41, a pain
control plan should be included in the anesthetic preoperative evaluation.

Three techniques for perioperative pain control that have shown efficacy and safety are:

1. Epidural or intrathecal opioid analgesia

2. Intravenous PCA with systemic opioids
3. Regional analgesic technique (including continuous nerve block catheter)

At UCSD, the surgeons write the orders for postoperative pain control once the patient
leaves the PACU. However it is appropriate and beneficial to discuss the above methods
with the patient during the pre-op appointment, especially if the patient will be
undergoing a particularly painful procedure and could benefit from an epidural or
regional technique. The literature suggests that 2 routes of administration may provide
more effective pain control than a single route, i.e. having an epidural PLUS getting IV
opioids may be more effective than one or the other.41

Prophylaxis for post-operative nausea and vomiting (PONV)

Patients who experience PONV are frequently very dissatisfied with their surgical and
anesthetic experience. Prophylaxis is not indicated for all patients because it increases
cost and may lead to undesirable side effects. However, patients considered to be at
increased risk of PONV may benefit from prophylactic treatment.

Patient characteristics associated with increased risk of PONV:

Females, especially young, thin females and those currently menstruating42

Patients with prior history of PONV or easy motion sickness

Anesthetic characteristics associated with increased risk of PONV:

General anesthesia
Increased duration of anesthesia
Intraoperative use of opioids
Use of nitrous oxide43

IV Propofol-based anesthetic technique decreases risk of PONV44,45

Surgical characteristics associated with increased risk of PONV:

Laparoscopic procedures
Gynecologic procedures
Ophthalmologic procedures, especially strabismus surgery
Ear and nasal procedures
Shoulder surgery46

Drug therapy for PONV prophylaxis:

1. Serotonin antagonists e.g., ondansetron, dolasetron, granisetron

- inhibition of 5-HT3 receptors in the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ)

2. Anti-histamines e.g., diphenhydramine, dimenhydrinate

- inhibition of H1 receptors in the CTZ
- also produce sedation

3. Anticholinergics e.g., scopolamine

- scopolamine patch applied prior to induction of anesthesia can help prevent
- inhibits muscarinic (M1) and histamine (H1) receptors in the hypothalamus
and CTZ
- also produces sedation

4. Butyrophenones e.g., droperidol, metoclopramide

- droperidol blocks dopamine receptors in the chemoreceptor trigger zone
- caution with droperidol as it can prolong QT interval and cause increased
- metoclopramide promotes gastric motility, blocks dopamine receptors in the
CTZ, and possesses weak antagonist properties for 5-HT3 receptors

5. Phenothiazines e.g., promethazine, prochlorperazine (antipsychotics)

- block dopamine receptors in the chemoreceptor trigger zone
- can produce sedation and extrapyramidal side effects

6. Steroids e.g., dexamethasone

- anti-emetic action not well understood; may inhibit prostaglandin or release
- most effective when administered prior to induction of anesthesia48


1. Fasting instructions see below

2. Medication instructions as detailed earlier
3. Where and what time to arrive
4. What to bring e.g., inhalers if asthmatic
5. What not to bring (or what they might want to leave with a
family member prior to going to OR) glasses, dentures, jewelry
6. Encourage smoking cessation prior to surgery49
7. Answer any other questions the patient or family has

Preoperative fasting instructions50

1. Patients should not have any solid foods or nonclear liquids for 6-8 hours
prior to surgery.
2. Medications may be taken with a small sip of water up to 2 hours prior to
3. A small amount (i.e. few sips) of clear liquid is OK up to 2 hours prior to
surgery. Coffee is considered a clear liquid as long as no cream or milk is
4. In practice, we tell our patients not to eat or drink anything after midnight and
to take their AM medications 2 hours prior to surgery with a small sip of
5. For pediatric cases, no solid foods for 8 hours, formula okay up to 6 hours
prior, breast milk okay up to 4 hours prior, and clear liquids okay up to 2
hours prior to surgery.51
6. Patients should understand that if these instructions are not followed, their
surgery will be delayed or possibly cancelled. They should also understand
the purpose of these guidelines i.e. to reduce the risk of pulmonary


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